A Guide for Spiritual Care in Times of Disaster for Disaster Response Volunteers, First Responders and Disaster Planners

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1 Light Our Way A Guide for Spiritual Care in Times of Disaster for Disaster Response Volunteers, First Responders and Disaster Planners

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3 Light Our Way A Guide for Spiritual Care in Times of Disaster for Disaster Response Volunteers, First Responders and Disaster Planners For further information, please see

4 1st edition, revised We would like to thank the following funders: Catholic Charities USA Christian Disaster Response Lutheran Disaster Response Presbyterian Disaster Assistance The Salvation Army United Jewish Communities United Methodist Committee on Relief Writer: Rev. Kevin Massey, Board Certified Chaplain Resource Editor and Project Coordinator: Julia Sibley-Jones Design: Orangeflux Finally, we would like to thank those members of the Light Our Way task force who have contributed to this project. This project has spanned several years and a change in leadership. Our greatest worry is that we have failed to acknowledge some who have contributed to the completion of LOW. Please accept our apologies if you recognize the inadvertent omission of your credit. Tom Davis, Church World Service; Mary Gaudreau, United Methodist Committee on Relief; Earl Johnson, American Red Cross; Eric Lankin, United Jewish Communities; Jim Nenninger, Association of Professional Chaplains; Johanna Olson, Lutheran Disaster Response; John Robinson, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster

5 light our way Purpose The purpose of this resource is to inform, encourage and affirm the hundreds of thousands of disaster responders who put their personal plans and routines on hold in the event of a local or national disaster. If you are one of those who carries out one or more of the myriad essential functions in the relief and recovery stages of disaster response, this booklet is for you. It is the belief of the members of the Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster that the spiritual nature of humanity inspires the deep compassion and spontaneous generosity that we see demonstrated by individuals and whole communities after great catastrophes. We believe that all who feel compelled to help can learn more effective and caring ways to be present to those we serve. It is written for you who sometimes wonder what to do, whether you are doing enough, or whether you are doing the right thing when you encounter a survivor who is in shock. It is written for you if you are concerned when you observe a co-worker behaving in an agitated or dangerous way or when you become overwhelmed with your own fear and sorrow at the sight of massive destruction and loss of life. This booklet is also for you if you are one who wears the symbols of the religious or the chaplain s vest your deportment and non-anxious presence can be a model for all disaster responders. Emergency response and disaster relief work are not for everyone. But you have chosen to accept the call to reach out when fellow human beings and even our furred and feathered friends are hurting. You, no doubt, belong to an organization a religious or service organization, community agency or service club with disaster response as part of its mission. You have been trained and equipped for rapid mobilization to the site of a disaster or to your leadership post when disaster strikes. You are prepared to do your job. This NVOAD resource on Emotional and Spiritual Care in Disaster is not intended to be one more training manual or another how to book for disaster response. Our intention is to encourage standards of best practice i

6 light our way for all of us, whether we care for children, give spiritual counsel, help survivors sort through the remains of their home, or answer phones at a call-in center. So what has spiritual got to do with it? Statistics confirm that 96% of Americans profess to believe in God, over 90% pray, nearly 70% are members of churches, synagogues or mosques and over 40% will have attended a house of worship in any given week. Relating to the spiritual dimension is just as important as addressing the social environment or psychological state of a person impacted by disaster. Further, a Caravan ORC poll conducted October 5-12, 2001 found that 59% of disaster victims preferred to receive support from a clergy or religious counselor compared to 45% seeking a physician and 40% seeking a mental health professional. This implies that disaster victims desire Spiritual Care and that the presence of Spiritual Care can be a useful referral source for other helping professionals. As responders and providers, we know that tending to our own spiritual, emotional, and physical needs gives us the strength and stamina to give our very best to our tasks and to those who benefit from our work. This is exemplified in the compassionate and caring relationships we nurture with all whom we encounter before, during and after disasters. Each of you is the gift that someone else needs in her or his moments of deepest despair. We hope this resource is useful to you and we welcome your comments and feedback. Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee and the Light Our Way Task Force of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster ii

7 section one BASIC CONCEPTS OF Spiritual Care Summary Spirituality is an essential part of humanity. Disaster disrupts people s spiritual lives significantly. Nurturing people s spiritual needs contributes to holistic healing. Everyone can benefit from Spiritual Care in times of disaster. one

8 section one Basic Concepts of Spiritual Care one The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) is an organization especially appropriate to identify and champion the principles and standards of Disaster Spiritual Care. Many of the member organizations have religious and spiritual backgrounds. The very principles of NVOAD s foundation, the Four C s of Cooperation, Communication, Coordination, and Collaboration, speak to identifying, applying and practicing common standards in this important endeavor. This resource we offer as a source of common language and Alan sat in shocked silence. His head was spinning with images of the chaos that had crashed down on him only a few hours earlier. He and his wife awoke at midnight to what sounded like a freight train roaring through their farm. The house had shuddered as a massive tree limb slammed through the back porch and staring into the inky darkness, Alan realized the barn was gone. Just gone. Now he waited in the hospital emergency room, silent amid the bustle of nurses and doctors scurrying frantically among the many injured. The storm had continued northeast and had struck the town with savage fury. Alan s sister lay somewhere behind the maze of hospital curtains. The doctor said she d broken her hip and that at her age, this was a serious matter. Alan felt the rage building inside him. How could this be? What are we going to do? I CAN T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING! His shouting surprised everyone, including himself. He was immediately embarrassed, but still shaking with rage. page 2

9 basic concepts of spiritual care approach to developing capacity in Spiritual Care along the entire Disaster Management Continuum. We hope that this resource lights the way toward planning and providing Spiritual Care as an integral part of Disaster Response. what is spirituality? Before one can explore the meaning and place of Spiritual Care, we must consider a primary question. What is Spirituality? Spirituality is a broader concept than Religion or Faith Tradition. Many people choose to adhere to a religion or faith tradition which provides a source of belonging, meaning, and identity. Spirituality is broader because every person has a sense of spirituality, whether or not she is religious. There may well be as many definitions of Spirituality as people on the globe. Many definitions, however, share common elements involving the struggle for meaning and the relationship of the Human Spirit to transcendence and hope. one Most people slid away from him, but one woman sat down right beside him. She introduced herself as the Chaplain on duty that evening. Alan could see from her name badge that she was a Rabbi. I notice you re in some distress, she said gently, I just want you to know that I m here if you d like to talk. Alan had never spoken with a counselor or clergyperson for personal matters before, but this night he poured out his heart. He cried and complained and cursed. The Chaplain sat with him listening to his lament. She encouraged him to share his feelings and held his hand when he cried. Alan was surprised at how grateful he was for her simple touch. When Alan finally received permission to visit his sister the Chaplain offered to come with him. Would you pray for us, Chaplain? he asked. The Chaplain s prayer asked for God s presence in the midst of these difficult times. Alan returned home, but his heart was heavy and his spirit was numb. page 3

10 section one Consider these descriptions of spirituality. Spirituality is a personal quest for the transcendent, how one discerns life s meaning in relation to God and other human beings. Healthy spirituality fosters healthy relationships and affirms all of life s experiences as part of the journey. Rabbi Eric Lankin one There is no essential demarcation between sacred and mundane, or the secular and spiritual. All of life s activities are infused with a spiritual dimension echoing as it were, Divine remembrance so as not to consider the material (including our earthly life) as an end unto itself. Dr. Faiz Khan Spirituality is the essence of life the beliefs and values that give meaning to existence and that which is held sacred. It is one s understanding of self, God, others, the universe, and the resulting relationships. Rev. Naomi Paget 1 page 4

11 basic concepts of spiritual care marks of positive spirituality Spirituality is a complex and intricately personal experience. Each person s spiritual life is a unique and marvelous journey. Each spiritual journey follows its own course; nevertheless, lives that are spiritually whole exhibit similar trends. Such lives express: A sense of awe and wonder: Feelings of awe and wonder are the personal response to one s awareness and relationship to the Transcendent, the Mystery, to that-which-is-greater-than-myself. A sense of community: Feelings of belonging and connectedness nurture one s soul as well as one s physical and mental health. The soul food of communal identity promotes connectedness, compassion and the desire to serve others. A sense of personal mission: People who have a strong sense of purpose and direction for their lives seem better able to remain focused and grounded in spite of disruptions and changes. Enthusiasm for continuous discovery and creativity: A mark of the presence of spiritual reflection is an adventurous spirit that is willing to risk new experiences. A sense of well-being and joy: Feelings of satisfaction and happiness reflect a balanced life: care for oneself and care for others; accountability to self and others; and, the ability to celebrate life and the Source of life even in the worst of times. 2 one Many of these trends of healthy spirituality need to be nurtured and attended to after disaster. We will examine later in this guide how one may assess and plan for spiritual care to attend to these needs. page 5

12 section one how disaster affects spirituality Faced with any loss, but especially sudden and profound loss such as in disaster, one s sense of meaning and purpose indeed everything one may have thought about how the world works is turned upside down. This sense of disruption can pervade an entire community. one A disaster affects the entire fabric of community that existed prior to the event and can cause traumatic stress among the whole community. Disaster recovery is in large part the rebuilding of community, the re-tying of the thousands of strands of relationship in the fabric of our being together that have been severed by the disaster. The Rev. John A. Robinson, Jr. Symptoms of spiritual dis-ease that may be exhibited during disaster include: Reconsidering core tenets of religious beliefs Asking questions like why did God do this? Questioning justice and meaning Feeling far from previously held beliefs Feeling a need to be cleansed Closing oneself off from loved ones Feeling despair and hopelessness Feeling guilty Wondering about life and death Feeling shame page 6

13 basic concepts of spiritual care what is spiritual care? Spiritual Care includes anything that assists an individual, family or community in drawing upon their own spiritual perspective as a source of strength, hope and healing. In disaster, anything that nurtures the human spirit in coping with the crisis is Spiritual Care. Religious Leaders naturally provide care for their own congregants, members, and parishioners in a manner imbued with the symbolism, meaning and resources of their own faith traditions. In fact, for individuals who belong to particular communities of faith, their own clergy and religious leaders are usually the best persons to offer them Spiritual Care in times of trouble. Disaster Spiritual Care, however, can be quite different. In Disaster Spiritual Care, Spiritual Care Providers may not share a religious or faith tradition with the individuals, families and communities for which they care. Indeed, the recipients of the care may not belong to any religious community at all. Thus, Disaster Spiritual Care endeavors to provide sensitive, appropriate care for all persons and to celebrate and respect every spiritual perspective. one page 7

14 section one Therefore, some of the Basic Standards and Principles of Disaster Spiritual Care include: 1. Offer presence and hospitality 2. Meet, accept and respect persons exactly as they are 3. Do No Harm Never evangelize, proselytize or exploit persons in vulnerable need one Spiritual Care Providers can be a quiet and patient listening presence while people share strong feelings and emotions of loss, anger and pain. Spiritual Care Providers nurture and encourage every spiritual perspective to be a source of strength in difficult times. Spiritual Care Providers patiently accept strong expressions of anger and rage, even those directed at God. Spiritual Care Providers never correct or contradict any expression of faith or doubt. All expressions are authentic and true for the person receiving care. Spiritual Care may involve arranging and appropriately providing for religious resources, rituals and experiences if the recipient of the care identifies with a specific faith tradition. If requested, such religious symbols can bestow a sense of belonging and comfort. Disaster Spiritual Care Providers become familiar with the symbols and resources of the world religions and encourage partnerships among all faith leaders in a community. In this resource we will explore many different avenues of Spiritual Care, including activities that explicitly assist spiritual healing and activities that are effective even without previous plan or intention. Throughout the entire Disaster Management Continuum (see page 10), there are numerous forms of Spiritual Care that assist communities in coping with tragedy, upheaval and loss. page 8

15 basic concepts of spiritual care who receives spiritual care? Everyone s sense of meaning can be shaken during a disaster from victims to response workers. Each may benefit from receiving spiritual care. The following chart suggests persons who may require spiritual care and the kind of spiritual struggles they may face. People who are impacted by disaster who may seek or need spiritual care: individuals/families/ communities who have lost homes or have been displaced individuals/families/ communities who have lost businesses or whose businesses have been shut down individuals/families who have become separated families/businesses/ congregations who have lost loved ones or been displaced the seriously injured first responders relief workers community leaders Emergency Room and hospital personnel law enforcement personnel survivors of previous disasters and traumas Questions and needs arising from the disaster: struggles of faith and meaning desire for religious/spiritual resources and rituals questions about getting assistance when, where, how need for contact & sense of belonging need for basic survival materials shelter, rest, water, food, basic sanitation need for accompaniment/ calm presence of others who have not been affected as severely need for gathering places to connect with other survivors/ mourners need for safe places to vent/ talk/recover one page 9

16 one section one Spiritual Care is a fluid and creative process. Spiritual Care Providers respond to the unique needs of individuals, families and communities in many different ways. In the next section we will explore different avenues of Spiritual Care. Disaster Management Continuum Credit: Church World Service Post-disaster recovery phase Disaster impact Relief Mitigation Rehabilitation Reconstruction Post-disaster recovery phase page 10

17 section two TYPES OF Spiritual Care Summary Spiritual Care in Disaster includes many kinds of caring gestures. Spiritual Care Providers include many people from diverse backgrounds. Adherence to common standards and principles in Spiritual Care ensures that this service is delivered and received appropriately. two

18 section two Types of Spiritual Care two There are numerous activities and gestures that provide Spiritual Care in times of Disaster. As noted in the summary, Spiritual Care includes anything that assists an individual, family or community in drawing upon its own spiritual perspective as a source of strength, hope and healing. In disaster, anything that nurtures the human spirit as a source of strength in coping with the crisis is Spiritual Care. Many activities and services provided by Disaster Response Agencies result in a sense of spiritual nurture for disaster victims. Indeed, the sight of a familiar disaster service emblem in a time of need may instill an immediate sense of hope and courage in someone victimized by disaster. This happens because the symbol or emblem has a history, a familiarity. In a sense, this too is Spiritual Care. Alan looked out over his fields. Litter and debris scattered to each horizon. It was even worse to realize that he was looking at the remnants of his own barn, shredded and blown across the land by the swirling winds of the storm. Alan remembered milking cows and birthing calves in that barn. He recalled trudging through deep snow on bitter cold mornings and laughing with his son on warm summer afternoons a liturgy of farm seasons centered on that classic, red-frame barn. It represented much more to him than a shelter for his cattle. And now it lay strewn across the fields. The task of cleaning up hundreds of acres overwhelmed Alan. He couldn t even think how to start. The sound of diesel engines caught his attention in time to see dozens of men streaming out of buses. Elder Wilson introduced himself as the men went to work clearing the fields. Alan was shocked by the generosity and impressed by the industriousness of these strangers. The image of these men in their wide brimmed hats and white shirts toiling under the sun bolstered his page 12

19 types of spiritual care Sometimes Spiritual Care is an activity or gesture which may not be performed with the direct intention of providing Spiritual Care, but which nonetheless results in a bolstering and nurturing of the Spirit. Persons and agencies that provide this manner of Spiritual Care may include: Synagogues, Mosques, Churches and other Faith Communities that open their doors as shelters, feeding kitchens and meeting places, Persons who open their homes to provide shelter and meals for relief workers, Persons who offer to substitute for a person s job responsibilities or to care for family members of victims, Spontaneous vigils which provide support to individuals and communities, Spontaneous generosity of neighbors and local businesses to meet basic needs of survivors. two spirits. He d never felt such gratitude and he hurried out to help them. If they had come so far to help him, he would certainly do his part. As Alan walked toward them, Elder Wilson invited him aside. Let the men do this for awhile, he said. I m sure you ve been working very hard for many days. It s terrible what happened here. I m a farmer myself and it hurts me to see such destruction. How old was that barn? Helen joined them in the shade of the old oak tree and the three chatted and remarked the men s steady progress in the fields. Alan talked about building the barn with his father in Through good times and bad, the family had proudly worked and lived on this land. Elder Wilson consoled and encouraged Alan. He promised that he would remember Alan s family and the entire town in his prayers. Alan and Helen both felt the tears brimming in their eyes. In a few hours the land was cleared. Alan and Helen served the men lemonade and pie and they marveled aloud that such a few hours could restore order to chaos and make friends of strangers. page 13

20 section two Sometimes Spiritual Care consists of activities and gestures which are performed with the direct intention and goal of nurturing and bolstering the Spirit. Groups providing this form of intentional Spiritual Care include: two Community clergy, faith leaders and Inter-faith leadership consortiums whose members not only share responsibility for their own faith communities but also make themselves available for providing Spiritual Care to the broader community; for example, visiting shelters, family assistance centers, etc. Trained, prepared chaplains, clergy and spiritual leaders who are part of pre-planned disaster operations, who leave their regular tasks to provide critical response work with faith-based and secular disaster organizations and who work cooperatively to screen, train and supervise local clergy volunteers. Local Places of worship (mosques, synagogues and churches) that open their doors and provide hospitality for organized community-wide prayer and memorial services. These activities and gestures of Spiritual Care occur along the entire Disaster Management Continuum. Many persons and agencies provide different modes of Spiritual Care. Some kinds of response require more extensive training than others. Clergy trained in traumatic loss may best staff some disaster spiritual care functions such as working in a disaster morgue with first responders. Most Spiritual Care Providers in Disaster will be the local community faith leaders. They will have different levels of education and training pertaining to their own faith tradition and its systems of instruction and certification. Their role is a crucial one for they are already recognized by the community and will be sought out for spiritual support. They appropriately provide Spiritual Care for their own congregants and members; they also provide Spiritual Care for other members of the community who look to them in times of disaster or crisis. page 14

21 types of spiritual care Other Spiritual Care Providers in Disaster have more extensive training and certification for specific roles. Hospital Chaplains, for example, typically have completed the education and certification to be a minister, priest, rabbi, imam or faith leader in their own tradition. Additionally, they have completed a series of courses in a process called Clinical Pastoral Education. This training heightens awareness of diverse faith traditions and equips Spiritual Care Providers to function effectively in institutional settings such as hospitals. Professional Chaplains are able to become Board Certified Chaplains through a number of cognate accrediting bodies for Spiritual Care. Organizations, including the Association of Professional Chaplains, set standards of training and education and certify Chaplains who meet those standards. Spiritual Care may take many forms: from listening to the stories of individual disaster victims to arranging/ providing familiar spiritual or religious resources to leading large communitywide events. Spiritual Care has a tremendous ability to bolster the hope and coping skills of persons struggling with spiritual issues following a disaster. Spiritual Care also has the capacity to damage vulnerable persons if performed in an inappropriate way. Because of this delicate reality, it is crucial that agencies and groups providing Spiritual Care adhere to common Ethical Standards and Codes of Behavior. two page 15

22 section two Several Disaster Response Organizations and Professional Spiritual Care Organizations have proposed Guidelines and Standards regarding Spiritual Care in time of Disaster. These can be reviewed in the Resources Section of this guide. Minimally, any guidelines developed for Spiritual Care in time of disaster should clearly articulate: two Respect for diverse faith traditions Concern for confidentiality Complete prohibition of proselytizing or evangelizing in the context of Disaster Spiritual Care Respect for social diversity Description of professional boundaries that guarantee safety of clients Mechanisms for ensuring that caregivers function at levels appropriate to their training and educational backgrounds Adherence to these principles is essential for Spiritual Care in a setting as public and as vulnerable as a community facing disaster. Victims of disaster deserve to receive Spiritual Care in a manner appropriate for their own lives, cultures and faith traditions. When Spiritual Care Providers from numerous agencies and organizations provide such care in a consistent professional manner, the service is embraced and cherished by communities in need. page 16

23 types of spiritual care some disaster spiritual care do s Disaster Spiritual Care Providers quickly learn that providing a quiet presence in the midst of turmoil brings hope, comfort and the recognition that one is not alone. Below are some helpful things to say and do when providing Spiritual Care in times of Disaster. Things to Say: I am so very sorry. My heart is with you. I am here to help you in any way I can. You have my sincere sympathy. Friends here are with you at this time. My sympathy for your loss. You will be in my prayers at this time. My prayers are with you at this time. What can I do to help you at this time? two Things to Keep in Mind: Avoid clichés. Don t avoid a deceased victim s name. Never preach or proselytize. Offer prayer if requested. Support people finding their own solutions to problems. Be cautious about giving advice. Permit persons to share their memories. Share your emotions sincerely. Encourage people to be connected to loved ones. Let people share their stories. page 17

24 section two Spiritual Care Providers may find themselves providing care to people from cultures and faith traditions very different from their own. Even Spiritual Care Providers with significant experience working in cross-cultural settings will nevertheless frequently encounter situations and needs for which they are unprepared. The most sincere and direct way to approach these moments is to be humble and to ask specifically about special needs which have not been met. Some useful cross-cultural considerations include: two Educate yourself about other cultures Avoid stereotypes. Recognize that grief looks different in various cultures. Demonstrate respect. Recognize that it is difficult to express feelings in a second language. Be open-minded. Ask questions about things you don t understand. Remember that each person is unique. Let people choose their own translators. Never use a child as an interpreter. Be aware of issues of distrust that may arise from fears regarding immigration and governmental issues. Some excellent materials have been prepared for in-depth training and preparation of Spiritual Care Providers in times of Disaster. These are detailed in the references section at the back of this guide. Disaster Spiritual Care Providers will consider themselves lifelong learners and be continually seeking new experiences, training, and education on topics including trauma, cross-cultural issues, world religions and disaster response. page 18

25 section three Emotional Care AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO SPIRITUAL CARE Summary Spiritual Care Providers partner with Mental Health Professionals in caring for communities in disaster. Spiritual and Emotional Care share some common elements but are distinct healing modalities. Spiritual Care Providers can serve an important role by referring individuals to receive care for their mental health needs. three

26 section three Emotional Care and its Relationship to Spiritual Care three Spiritual Care Providers in disaster have many important partners whose work contributes tremendously to a community s recovery. Mental Health professionals have an inestimable role in healing and wellness following disaster. Trauma and disaster can profoundly affect an entire community s mental health. Unfortunately, Spiritual Care providers and Mental Health professionals have sometimes harbored suspicions of each other s roles and that suspicion can interfere with the timely and efficient provision of services. These suspicions may stem from some similarities between the two healing modalities. These similarities include: Concern for emotional well-being Practice of attentive listening as part of care Embracing a holistic view of person Helen had been working tirelessly since the storm. While Alan took charge of looking after the farm, she had taken a key role helping the disaster response agencies organize meals. So many people from so far away had come to help. Helen was proud that she had a role helping, too. For weeks she had worked with a community group operating a kitchen. They provided hot meals to people who had lost their homes and to disaster responders. Helen took particular pride in being able to transform institutional canned food into something worthy of second helpings. Helen, you ve outdone yourself! Pastor Beth said as she returned her tray. I have so enjoyed benefiting from your cooking these last weeks. I never thought I d be happy about eating in a school cafeteria again! Thank you, Pastor. Care to join me for a cup of coffee? Helen had page 20

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